Formula one seems to be missing a trick in the world of sponsorship and it’s a really big one. In formula one personal sponsorship is almost unheard of. What trainers does David Coulthard wear? Well we don’t know. We actually do know that Michael wears Filas but that’s because they sponsor Ferrari.
Red Bull tried it but in the end got so frustrated that they had to buy a whole team (or two) just to get their message heard.
Much as the formula one establishment would like us to believe otherwise people really care about personal struggles. And to that end they care who wins the drivers championship but don’t mind who wins the constructors (except in Italy).
Because of this the sport has somewhat withered under Michael Schumacher. Okay so the winning all of the time was a factor certainly but the fact that nobody outside the sport knew who anyone else was was probably relevant too.
Personal sponsors do this job for the sport as they get the story out there. And I’m not talking small concerns here. Why doesn’t Nike sponsor anyone in Formula one? The reason is that no team boss will let them. Because Nike would want to put the swoosh on the car. And Ferrari wouldn’t like it if there was a swoosh on one car and not on the other. And they especially wouldn’t like it if there was a swoosh on one of the MaLarens too. And of course they won’t like it because it takes away some of their power and also they wouldn’t get a cut of that advertising space on their car.
In football the team owns the ads on the kit but the player gets to pick his own boots. And that difference is huge. So at the very least you might think the driver should get to control the ads on his helmet but no.
Why is this important now? Well next year or the year after a lot of people are going to be talking about Lewis Hamilton. A lot of people are talking about him now. But they are in the sport. And in the sport people are already refering to him as “our Tiger Woods” without seemingly realising that without Nike and Accenture we probably wouldn’t have heard of him. It was them who latched on to him and made him the global brand. But in Formula One it might never happen. If he wins British people might watch more Grand Prix and perhaps black people worldwide too. But he’ll never make the big leap for the sport without the billboards saying “go on be a Tiger”.